Left out: Orioles' Scott mired in slump

He has hit .225 in May, fared so poorly vs. lefties that he's been out of lineup vs. them

May 31, 2011|By Jeff Zrebiec, The Baltimore Sun

SEATTLE — It was in mid-May last year when Luke Scott broke from a terrible start, discovered his power stroke and emerged as the Orioles' most dangerous hitter on his way to finishing with a .284 average, 27 home runs and 72 RBIs.

Immersed in another offensive slump and with several key contributors out of the lineup, the Orioles desperately need the notoriously streaky Scott to get hot at the plate. He entered Tuesday night's game against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field batting just .234 with six homers and 19 RBIs in 43 games.

Scott, 32, showed signs of breaking out in May, but he's back in a slump. He hasn't homered since May 3, a span of 70 at-bats, and has just three RBIs in his past 14 games.

"From what I hear, it's pretty similar to kind of what went on last year," said Orioles manager Buck Showalter, who took over in August and watched Scott hit .314 with nine homers and 20 RBIs in 27 games that month. "I'm trying to trust what I saw later. Luke is pretty frustrated where he is. … He hasn't been the guy that we know he's capable of being."

The Orioles also know that it all it takes is one game for Scott to start one of those hot streaks that allow him to carry the club offensively for weeks at a time. However, there are several things working against Scott that suggest one of those stretches is unlikely, at least at this time.

Although Scott maintains that his rehabilitation exercises have helped his right shoulder, which has a slight labrum tear, the left-handed-hitting slugger acknowledges that he still feels it when he swings.

"The shoulder has something to do with it, but it's still something where I shouldn't be struggling [like] I am," said Scott, who entered Tuesday's game hitting .225 in May with two homers and 11 RBIs in 24 games. He had also struck out 20 times in 80 at-bats this month. "I'm not going to make excuses with my shoulder. It bothers me, but it's not at that point where I can't do a better job than I'm doing."

Scott, whose shoulder bothers him mostly when he is throwing and who says his recent time at first base in Derrek Lee's absence has been easier on it than playing left field, still plans to wait until after the season to potentially have surgery.

"Surgery is not an option right now," he said. "If it gets to the point where I have to make that decision to accept the fact that it is impeding me to where I can't do the job, yeah, I would take a look at that. But it's not at that point."

Scott also hasn't been helped by the amount of left-handed pitching that the Orioles have been facing. Including Tuesday, when the Orioles matched up with their former ace, Erik Bedard, the club has faced left-handed starters in seven of their past 11 games. Scott, who is 2-for-27 with 10 strikeouts against lefties this season and just a career .236 hitter versus them overall, has started in just one of those seven games.

On the coming homestand, which starts Friday, the Orioles are tentatively scheduled to face two left-handers — Ricky Romero and Jo-Jo Reyes — in the three-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays, and three lefties — Brett Anderson, Gio Gonzalez and Josh Outman — in the following three-game set with the Oakland Athletics.

That will present a decision for Showalter on how much Scott will play. He stuck with him in a key spot in the eighth inning of the Orioles' 4-3 loss to the Mariners on Monday afternoon, and Scott didn't come through against lefty Aaron Laffey. With runners on the corners and two outs and the Orioles trailing by a run, Laffey got Scott to ground out meekly to second base.

"It's frustrating," Scott said. "It's not because I'm not working hard, I'm in the cage every day, looking at film, working with [hitting coach Jim Presley]. This game is about feel. I'm trying my best and doing everything in my power to find it. Until then, I go out there every day and give it my best and try to do the best I can and hit the ball hard somewhere. For me, it tears me up inside. It really does."

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

twitter.com/jeffzrebiecsun

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